Roxbury Preparatory Charter School
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Located in Mission Hill, Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, a 6-8 public school, prepares its students to enter, succeed in, and graduate from college. Since its founding in 1999, Roxbury Prep’s enrollment has grown to 200 students. The student body is currently composed entirely of students of color. Most students live in single-parent households and 68 percent qualify for either free or reduced-price lunch. Roxbury Prep’s entering 6th graders arrive with poor academic skills—onethird enroll scoring two years below grade level on the Stanford 9 Achievement Test. Despite these hurdles, Roxbury Prep sends one hundred percent of its 8th grade graduates to high schools with explicit college missions.
With Roxbury Preparatory Charter School’s mission-driven needs and the body of research indicating that most intervention programs designed to propel historically underrepresented students to college begin too late, Roxbury Prep created the Middle School Aspirations and Pathways to College (MAPS to College) Program in 2003. The success of the MAPS to College Program is due in large part to the fact that Roxbury Prep reaches students in 6th grade, before underachievement and lack of interest in school has become the accepted – and expected – norm, and then maintains that connection through the challenging high school years. Roxbury Prep has a rigorous academic program that strengthens students’ core academic skills. Academic achievement is celebrated in weekly Community Meetings and through a system of positive reinforcements and rewards. College banners adorn the doors to classrooms and the hallways and discussions between staff, students, and families are often put in the context of applying to, enrolling in, and graduating from college. In order to help students identify with college more closely, each grade visits a college campus every year.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Education, the 2006 high school dropout rates for Hispanic (43%) and Black students (36%) are more than double those of White students who drop out in the same four-year period. The MAPS to College Program has reversed this trend for Roxbury Prep alums – 87 percent of Roxbury Prep’s first two graduating classes graduated from high school and are currently enrolled in college.
The two Graduate Services Coordinators visited Roxbury Prep alumni in over 60 area high schools, coordinating meetings with guidance counselors and coaches to ensure that students are on track to graduate high school and attend college. The MAPS to College Program also provides seminars on scholarship opportunities and saving for college. In addition, the MAPS to College Program has provided a ten-week study skills workshop for first year students in high school, and has coordinated college visits for high school juniors.
Generally, students who attend urban public middle schools in Massachusetts do not have a college preparatory program like MAPS to College available to them. Students in urban schools need to start thinking about and preparing for college before high school. Unfortunately, these types of resources are not in place. The MAPS to College Program can and should be replicated statewide on a school-level to enable students in urban public schools to enter, succeed in, and graduate from college.